Theatre Review: BILLIONAIRE BOY – The Lowry, Salford

billionaire boy uk tour

With its zany characters, slapstick comedy and clever, catchy songs, BILLIONAIRE BOY has everything a young child might want from a musical

David Walliams’ impressive library of children’s books have fast become modern British classics, especially with the annual BBC Christmas special adaptations putting them on the map. GANGSTA GRANNY was the first to grace the stage last year, with the play touring the UK, but BILLIONAIRE BOY is the first to get the musical treatment. It won’t be the last though, with talks of RATBURGER and THE BOY IN THE DRESS in the works.

BILLIONAIRE BOY follows Joe Spud, the richest boy in the world. He’s got everything a twelve year old could ever want… except for a friend. He gets bullied at his very posh expensive school (because his dad own’s successful loo roll company “Bumfresh”) so Joe decides to move to the local comprehensive, where no one knows he’s rich. The story overall is simple and predictable, but the characters, jokes, and songs take center stage.

Walliams’ story has everything a young child might want from a musical. There’s an impressive array of zany characters, all with equally funny names, slapstick, and a smattering of toilet humour. None of it seems to pander though, as Walliams seems to have found that elusive magic in children’s humour that only the likes of Roald Dahl seemed to have mastered before. Nick Coler, Miranda Cooper and Jon Brittain have done a wonderful job of creating clever, catchy songs that only enhance Walliams’ story, and you and your children will surely be humming them all the way home.

the cast of billionaire boy

A small ensemble of vastly talented actor-musicians take on the various colourful characters throughout BILLIONAIRE BOY. Our hero, Joe Spud, is played by Ryan Heenan. He has a wonderful contemporary voice and get’s many impressive solos throughout the show. Lem Knights as Joe’s best friend Bob gives him a run for his money with his Act Two solo, showing off some impressive vocal talent. Dean Nolan is a highlight as both Joe’s dad, Len, and school dinner lady Mrs Trafe. Seeing him cartwheel off a table into the splits to end a solo was a high point of the show. Sophia Nomvete acts as a narrator throughout the show and has a lot of heart as Bob’s Mum. She also gets to show off her range as two teachers.

The set is wonderfully elaborate, with buckets of glitter, plenty of extravagant pieces and many, many flashing lights. It’s impossible to be bored for even a second, and with Luke Sheppard’s direction and Tom Jackson Greaves’ choreography (who worked together on SPRING AWAKENING at Hope Mill Theatre last year), the whole show has a great energy to it. There are some great comedic moments throughout and the songs have plenty of laughs too, and there’s a dig at Piers Morgan, so there’s something for everyone.

BILLIONAIRE BOY is the ideal children’s musical. It’s not going to be the next MATILDA but with Musical Theatre on the rise again, it’s the perfect time to get your kids interested, and this might be the thing to do it. It’s fun, quirky and hilarious. Adults can have a fun time with it too, so its a fun family day at the theatre!

4 out of 5 stars

BILLIONAIRE BOY runs at The Lowry, Salford until 17 February 2019.